December 15, 2008 2 Comments
Kanye West was on SNL this weekend performing his single, “Love Lockdown.”
He delivers what is one of the worst live musical performances ever captured in the history of recorded music – comparable to a rejectee on an early-season episode of American Idol. Brendon from WWTDD quips, “This is the kind of noise you normally only hear on TV after someone gets poisoned.”
If it wasn’t for obvious vocal doubling (notice how some off-camera singer hits all the high notes!) and occasional saves from Auto Tune, it would be even worse.
Is there any doubt that an amateur doing this performance would be heartily booed off the stage at the Apollo?
The ironic thing here is that “Love Lockdown” is a tremendous song on record.
So what went wrong?
Clearly, Kanye isn’t a particularly good singer, and he needs WAY more Auto Tune than was in effect on Saturday night. So chalk some of this up to a technical glitch – but only in the sense that it failed to properly obscure Kanye’s mediocre singing voice.
However, almost as problematic is the ill-conceived staging of this performance, which may stem from a wrongheaded interpretation of the source material.
Kanye’s 808s and Heartbreak album is really good. But the reason it’s good is NOT because Kanye is a great singer, or because his vocal tracks are so memorable.
The beats are what make it a good album. Track after track of awesome beats with sharply produced, unnatural-sounding vocals and two well-placed guest appearances.
The album’s lyrics (particularly as they pertain to heartbreak) are self-indulgent and lame, and now we know Kanye can’t sing, either. But that hardly matters when a nasty beat is thumping at you from the subwoofer.
“Love Lockdown” is a great example. The first minute – pretty much just Kanye singing – is pretty boring. Then the drums kick in at around the one minute mark, and it becomes a serious jam. The last 90 seconds of the song are practically all beat and no vocals, and they’re among the best 90 seconds of music released this year.
Kanye’s a great producer and composer, and he’s put together a lot of great singles, and “808s” is arguably his best album.
But this performance was staged to feature Kanye’s vocals and only Kanye’s vocals, with the backing musicians hidden in shadow and their performance nearly inaudible.
Leaving us only with the self-absorbed Mr. West and his terrible vocals…
The Letterman performance, in which the Auto Tune worked and there were a bunch of burly drummers in the background, was better.
But honestly, less of Kanye alone on the stage “crooning” and more of them drummers breaking down dope beats!
In Kanye’s defense on an entirely unrelated note, everyone who thought he ripped off Daft Punk on his single “Stronger” needs to check out this Edwin Birdsong track from the 70s…